Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ayun Halliday

Ayun Halliday is the sole staff member of the quarterly zine, The East Village Inky and the author of Dirty Sugar Cookies: Culinary Observations, Questionable Taste, Job Hopper, No Touch Monkey! And Other Travelers’ Lessons Learned Too Late and The Big Rumpus: A Mother’s Tale from the Trenches. She is BUST magazine's Mother Superior columnist and has contributed to a vast array of low-paying forums. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the playwright, Greg Kotis, and their two exceedingly well documented children.

A couple of days ago I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I just burned through Dramarama, a young adult novel by my friend and neighbor, E. Lockhart. It's about a yearning Midwestern girl's experiences at a summer theater institute, which hit rather close to home since I had attended such a program at Northwestern University the summer before my senior year of high school. I was really cringing at the main character's initially obnoxious exuberance because it so closely mirrored mine. The wind gets taken out of her sails almost immediately when she blows her audition pieces and is assigned a minor role in the only non-musical show, the loser show that nobody wants to be in. This didn't quite happen to me, but close enough! I had wanted to be one of the hookers in Hot L Baltimore, but instead wound up playing an old lady in an adaptation of an Isaac Bashevis Singer story. It could have been worse. When I actually saw Hot L Baltimore, I was horrified that this one girl's part consisted entirely of roller skating on stage with a pizza box, saying, "Pizza," and then clumping up the stairs to deliver it to the whore who'd ordered it. Oh, the shame! The unfairness of it all! Ms. Lockhart does a masterful job of capturing all that, along with the casual cruelty of teachers intent on showing teenagers the cold realities of the biz, and sweet thrill of dormitory romance. Plus, I was very gratified that an anecdote I had regaled her with when she was writing the book made it into the finished work. Think of me when Sadye (nee Sarah) is scapegoated by her acting teacher for the crime of having a tense foot. Oh the humanity!

Earlier this month, I was cat sitting in a book filled house in Juneau Alaska. I crammed so much reading into a two week period, I think I'm going to have to devote a good portion of the next issue of my zine to reviews, which tend to be glowing. I try to keep my big yapper shut rather than trash somebody else's baby merely because it wasn't my cup of tea. Some of the stand-outs from this literary orgy were:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. As a parent, I really appreciated how the main character not only has to scrounge up food and shelter in a treacherous, barely populated, post-apocalyptic environment, he constantly has to reassure his kid that things are okay, even when they're reeling away from the cannibals' house. I wish Saturday Night Live would do a skit about this. I would find me a tv and tune in for sure.

The Collected Stories of T. Coraghessan Boyle. I've been a fan ever since my freshman year of college, when I read the hilarious "We Are Norsemen." I had that story on the brain the whole time I was in Juneau. My husband is there working on his new play, Yeast Nation, which is about a community of single celled organisms at the dawn of time - and all of them are named Jan. My memory of "We Are Norsemen" was that all of the Norsemen share the name Thorkel, though when I reread it, I realized that this is not exactly accurate. Anyway, it was an absolute delight and thick as a phone book!

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk whose name I can never pronounce or spell without assistance. I loved the repetitive description of one character as a 'big moosie." I loved that this was in this macho phenomenon that everybody, even me, has heard about by now. I remember renting the movie shortly after it came out and being surprised at how good it was. The cover of the cat lady's copy had Brad Pitt on it. Lucky for me that when I told my husband what I was reading, he said, (SPOILER) "Oh right, isn't that the one where the main guy and Brad Pitt are actually the same person?" Thank god, because I'm not one hundred percent sure I would have picked up on that. I'm keen when it comes to recognizing nifty turns of phrase like Big Moosey, but not always so swift on picking up plot twists.

I also spent a lot of time with my children in the kid's room at the Juneau Public Library, where I was able, over a period of four days, to read Cancer Vixen, a graphic memoir by the New Yorker cartoonist, Marisa Acocella Marchetto. I didn't have a library card, so I couldn't check it out and I lived in fear that someone else might check it out before I was finished. Her personality really grew on me throughout, and I found myself disinclined to begrudge her her fabulous connections, fancy shoes, and pampered lifestyle when I was so privy to all the details of her diagnosis, treatment and mental condition. Long may she prosper!
Visit Ayun Halliday's website and check out her food blog.

--Marshal Zeringue